Here in the Bay Area, the transit system has problems with connectivity. And we have a tradition of poor integration between transit and land use. As a transit advocate, it’s difficult to explain why these connections are so important.

Transitshed modeling helps decision-makers - like City Council Members, transit agency board members, staff, and community members clearly see the benefits of improvements to transit and land use in helping more people have better access to jobs. Specifically, it lets you see how many people can have access to a given destination, within a given commute time.

Right now, there is a particular challenge with the proposed VTA El Camino Real Bus Rapid Transit proposal, which would provide dramatic speed increases for the most heavily used bus line in the county. The line travels East West, but major employment centers are North (like Moffett Park in Sunnyvale) or South (Apple Campus). Key city council members have been concerned that the ECR BRT project will not help improve access to the job centers, and have been advocating that better North/South connections alone are sufficient.

Leveraging the power of transit Open Data and Open Source trip planning software, we have created a tool to visualize transitshed differences between transit service scenarios. This allows us to explore how each scenario provides access to housing, major employment centers, and service to transit-dependent populations.

Using the tool, you can compare different scenarios:

  • current conditions
  • El Camino Real BRT with Dedicated Lanes
  • North South improvements - route and frequency improvements

By comparing these scenarios, it becomes apparent that the East/West ECR BRT project helps access to these job centers to the North and South; that N/S improvements alone won’t solve the problem; and that the combined network of N/S and E/W improvements provide the strongest results.

While this is our first use case, the tool is designed for general purpose use, and can be used to model, visualize, and compare many transit scenarios such as the impact of bikes allowed on transit, headway improvements, speed improvements, the impact of route changes on the community, and evaluating the cost effectiveness of proposed transit investments.

The tool makes use of OpenTripPlanner software and OpenStreetMap, as well as GTFS data provided by Caltrain, BART, SFMTA, VTA, SamTrans, AC Transit. To evaluate hypothetical scenarios, the tool is able to transform routes drawn in the simple and user-accessible GeoJSON format into complete GTFS feeds. This allowed us to easily create GTFS feeds from VTA’s presentations regarding plans for El Camino Real Bus Rapid Transit and North/South improvements. Leaflet and d3.js were used to manage the map interface and graphs.

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